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Taiwan: Burning of the Plague God Boat

According to Taiwan.net,

The burning of the Plague God Boat is one of the folk rituals of the seafaring people in southwestern Taiwan. The original purpose of this ritual was to send the Plague God out to the sea, and diseases along with him; today it is an activity held to pray for peace and good fortune. The festival is held once every three years, around the ninth lunar month, at Donglong Temple in Donggang. The boats are burned in the middle of the fourth month at Cingan Temple in Sigang, Tainan County. Generally, the Donggang event is bigger. These celebrations include large-scale temple activities, which climax with the burning of the plague god boat on the last day.

The Donggang boat-burning celebrations run for eight days and seven nights. According to custom, before the boat is set afire, devotees and other participants prepare goods for the symbolic trip. Then a big fire is made (this is to force bad spirits and the Plague God to go aboard), and the boat is burned while the people pray for peace.

But not just at Donggang (google map link) or southeastern Taiwan, the same ritual is conducted in many small villages all around Taiwan with diversity. YangPhoto recorded one of them in Da Jiou (Pingdong City), which was conducted in a minimal fashion on his photo blog:

YangPhoto says:

這是個「小而美「的燒王船儀式
至今拍王船祭典,少說也有十餘次
從來沒有看到如此精簡,但這麼有地方特色的王船
這艘王船竟然是紙糊而成的,四個大漢就可以輕易扛起
…………..
那天上午,拍完東港漁船鮪魚進港後,就驅車前往位於屏東市大洲裡的超峰寺
該廟宇的送王儀式,參與的當地信徒只有數十人 與動輒數千人大型王船祭相比
簡直是小巫(廟)見大巫(廟)

This is a small and beautiful Plague God Boat Burning ritual.
I have taken photos of the ritual for more than a dozen times.
But I have never seen such simple but distinctive local God Boat.
The God Boat is made with paper and can be lifted up by four men.
…………..
In the morning, after I took the photo of Donggang's tuna boats in the harbor, I drove to Chao Feng Temple, which is located in Dajiou village, Pingdong City.
This temple's ritual was attened by merely several dozens of believers,
which is outshone by larger temples’ rituals with several thousands of believers.

1030813572

長得像十字架的船錨?

An crucifix-like anchor?

1030813573

添載物有醬油,而衙役水手也是用紙做成,簡單到不行

A bottle of soy sauce on boat. Shipmen and guardsmen are also made of paper. It can't be more simple.

1030813575

四個人就可扛起的紙糊王船,有四隻支架

With the 4 handles, it only takes 4 men to lift up the paper-made God Boat.

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婦女信眾就大剌剌的坐在小貨車後面

Lady believers sit behind the mini van at ease.

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長老抽香菸凝視溪畔,等待燒王船儀式的進行

The elder is smoking while looking at the riverside, waiting for the ritual of God Boat Burning to proceed.

1030813587

添載只花了十幾分鐘即完成

It takes only a little bit more than 10 minutes to load the boat with paper offerings.

1030813591

在阿嬤旁這位小女孩,微笑對著我的鏡頭,靦腆的擺出V字形手勢

The little girl next to her grandma smiles at my lens and shows me a “V” hand gesture timidly.

1030813592

1030813586

祭祀後,即刻點燃燒王船儀式

After the religious service, burning of the God Boat began right away.

1030813589

1030813590

香火爐筒隨著高屏溪流走……
屏東大洲超峰寺送王祭典沒有熱鬧的人群,也沒有喧囂的陣頭
有可能會隨著時代的變遷在不知不覺中流失
但根於台灣土地的堅持信念和在地人民的護祐
那是永遠不會變的…….

The incense burner floats away along Gaoping river
The ritual in Chao Feng Temple in Dajiou, Pingdong, is very quiet, no crowds of people, nor hurly-burly battle array.
It might disappear with time passing by.
But local people's belief which root deep in the Taiwan soil,
will never change….

All the photos in this post are reposted with the permission of original author, YangPhoto.

You can see more photos of Plague God Boat Burning around Taiwan on flickr here.

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